photo: NOAA                
North tower, 6WTC, and 5WTC wreckage, photographed from just under 3000 feet, 23 September 2001. (Click image for more detail.)

Four more fortnights on the perimeter:
11 to 24 September | previous 25 September to 8 October | next 23 October to 5 November | 6 to 19 November ||

... and after || Updates and corrections || 30 May 2002: Job done? || Winter Garden photo update ||
What next? || Greenwich Village park continues tradition honoring fallen firefighters

<map: the frozen zone>

1 WTC: North Tower
2 WTC: South Tower
3 WTC: Vista Hotel
4 WTC: Southeast Plaza Bldg:
      Commodities Exchange
5 WTC: Northeast Plaza Building
6 WTC: U.S. Custom House
7 WTC: Tishman Center

1 WFC: Dow Jones
2 WFC: Merrill Lynch
3 WFC: American Express
      (north of Winter Garden)

<wtc map>

Circumnavigating the frozen zone              

Five fortnights walking the perimeter

Fortnight three

9 to 22 October

Copyright © 2001-2005 Diane Fisher
except photos copyright © 2001-2005 by the respective photographers.
Thursday, 11 October: One month. Solemn ceremonies. The fires at ground zero still are burning. Tons and tons of debris have been trucked away. The upright steel skeletons have been trimmed or removed; from the periphery of the frozen zone, ground zero no longer has the same perplexing beauty.
(I could almost excuse Rudy's ban on cameras if he announced that the reason is that when seen purely as visuals, shorn of their meaning, the public New York part of the series of events that began at 8.47 a.m. ET 11 September have been hideously beautiful. That terrible guilty secret is something that anybody with a visual eye has had to deal with every day since, and that in time will require calm dissection.)
The frozen zone shrinks a bit more. Downtown restaurants by the dozens have folded. Poor Weber's. The closeout store already had looked to be on its uppers; I wonder if it ever will be able to reopen. Another warm, sunny day, another election--this time the Democratic runoff; I feel poll fatigue coming on. [photo]
photo: Mark Mozaffari       
Church Street, 11 September, Weber's in corner building.

Only F.A.A. heads have rolled in Washington. And the counterattack goes on in Afghanistan. I watch eagerly but have yet to see anyone propose a realistic more effective strategy to prevent future mass murders. We've hit four U.N. workers but not the Chinese embassy--yet. Let's hope we don't kill six more innocents, let alone 6000. Given Taliban insistence on playing games about "evidence" for nearly four weeks, I don't much care if the bombings don't play well in the Muslim world. Look what the evidence that convicted the first WTC bombers got us. Refraining from bombing al Qaeda and Taliban targets will hardly win the hearts of people who devote their lives to piety and nursing grievances against the great infidel.
I wonder if the people who first offer the brief obligatory statement that the murders were most unfortunate, then expound at length on how they really were the U.S.'s fault, showed earlier signs of sociopathy. At the same time, anyone who despairs of braindead U.S. foreign policies has to wrestle with the question of how they can be altered in our lifetimes without appearing to reward pure evil. The popular Israeli response that "now the U.S. knows what it feels like" is a profound insult--as if the U.S. had ever called Palestinians lice, bulldozed their homes and orchards, and shot their children. U.S. troops stationed in Saudi Arabia with the consent of the Saudi government is hardly equivalent to settling the West Bank with multitudes of junior Meir Kahanes. Unless someone can disabuse Israel's rabid right of the illusion that 11 September suddenly turned Americans (except a few unstable xenophobes) into fellow Arab-haters, it seems we're going to continue hearing the demented proposal that the U.S. now treat Arafat as an enemy of this country--at that, an enemy the equal of bin Laden.
Meanwhile, Condoleezza Rice is on the phone appealing to network tv executives to suppress the news. bin Laden has no better way to send coded messages to his troops than in propaganda statements? Pure WWII war comics stuff. But the executive branch--more specifically, Colin Powell's son--controls broadcast licenses and the tv execs no doubt will show their patriotism by forfeiting the First Amendment and, as usual, their responsibility to keep Americans as well informed as they can.
My own phone rings. "Hello. This is Mario Cuomo." Click. I already know who Mario wants me to vote for. Marc's eulogy is so stylishly composed, punctuation and spelling were so letter-perfect, I must admit that by the time I'd transcribed it twice I began wondering if it's an exercise in creative writing. Oh, well. If so, it's no less honorable. Phone rings again. "This is Ed Koch." Click. Not only do I know who Ed wants me to vote for, I wouldn't want to hear his reaction to what I think about his loose cannon pal Ariel. I still haven't cabled my new CD changer and VCR. Rereading Mimi Gauthier LeBien's "Accidental Tourist at Ground Zero"--if strictly speaking she was near, not "at," so what--brings back how that first warm, sunny primary day and the days after felt. I don't suppose I'll ever understand what I did that morning, but it's clear now that writing this has been a psychic necessity, an attempt to make something coherent of what I can, small moments, pebbles scattered around a central event of such magnitude it may never be comprehensible to me.
Saturday, 13 October: I turn on the radio and doze off again. I half-hear a book discussed I'd like to read and make a mental note to look at it next time I'm in Borders. Then I remember and am wide awake. Later on the same station I hear a little girl talk about the eye signals she and her friends have developed to warn each other in case they run into bin Laden. I'd be willing to bet they also take a long leap into bed.
Thursday, 18 October, inside the frozen zone, at ground zero: I know the intersection of Church and Vesey streets. I understand its traffic patterns, I know its rhythms. I stand now on the Federal Building corner. Toward the Hudson where I should see a pedestrian bridge I never crossed is a Vesey Street I don't know, the 7WTC rubble and--as on the other streets south of Chambers, west of Church--behind chainlink fence, heavy equipment. I know the remaindered computer book vendor who should be operating from a folding table in front of the Federal Building, the blonde whose haircut I want on the poster in the Louis D. window across Church Street. Up Vesey a door or two is the Stage Door Deli. Does a sign in the window still advertise spaghetti with your choice of sauce, $4.99? Opposite them on Vesey is St. Paul's graveyard, names and dates worn off headstones by centuries of exposure. Men in reflective vests stand in twos and threes talking in Church Street near the subway entrance. A stone's throw beyond them down Church Street, next to the pile, everywhere, earth-moving equipment chugging this way and that. The big, round planted concrete barriers in front of the Borders doors in the still standing 5WTC across Vesey that direction are intended to stop car bombers without unduly alarming anyone else. A lot of people use them as ash trays. I stare at the Borders signs, at the lone plate glass window broken on the Vesey Street side. Above the sheltering overhang, windows all are gone. The street sign is only slightly bent. Because 5WTC stands, I can't see the pile. That's just as well. The smoke stinks, but that's not why I can hardly get my breath. I've never experienced a sensation like this in my life. My long life. The intensity of this place is suffocating me. I walk no farther. I don't belong. The men and women here have work to do and nobody else has any moral right to be here. I turn and walk back up the wet street, past the officers with hoses at the Mandatory Vehicle Wash sign, toward the periphery of the frozen zone and the world where the rest of us do whatever it is we do. <update: 14 April 2002>
Friday, 19 October, inside the blue-collar-bar-and-restaurant- turned-relief station on Canal Street near the Holland Tunnel entrance: Everybody here is part of the recovery effort. Almost everybody here is a cop but not necessarily NYPD. This is no place for rubberneckers, and today I am not one. Women serve from the hot table with a warm smile for every taker. The first has glanced at my identifying insignia and greets me by name. I sit alone near the door, eating at the bar.
A flurry next to me, photographs. The greetings of all of the children from all over America on the walls downtown are beautiful. The greetings of the children of a very poor school district in southern Texas are now being delivered. The children of Palito Blanco Elementary School of the Ben Bolt-Palito Blanco district have done something special. They made a crib-size quilt, and this quilt is nothing short of a work of art. School board official Oscar Garcia and his wife, Vilma, have delivered the quilt to the right place, and a place of honor is found for it on the wall above where the recovery workers eat. This loving quilt from the "Home of the Lil' Badgers" with its Lone Star State maps and American flag--buttons representing stars--and personal messages deserves a place of honor on a wall of the Museum of 11 September that in time surely must be built.
While Mrs. Garcia and I are chatting, a man stands on a chair and introduces the mayor of Oklahoma City. The mayor of Oklahoma City stands on the chair and makes an encouraging speech that is affecting and effective, short on slogans and long on empathy. He knows whereof he speaks and his listeners know it. They applaud him several times. I've heard a lot of mayoral speeches (I have in fact written more than a few). He's good, this guy. He concludes by telling them that they've seen things no one should ever have to see and--citing some Oklahoma City before-and-after statistics regarding, e.g., divorce--he emphatically urges them all to get counseling to deal with the inevitable consequences. Not the kind of speech one expects to hear a mayor deliver to uniformed services.
I only came into this relief station to grab a bite.
Other signs of the times. In the window of the carpenters union building on Hudson Street:
"The government has informed the New York City District Council of Carpenters that it is imperative for the economic existence of our City and Nation that we complete the various office projects around the city as the loss of the World Trade Center and other nearby buildings will have a tremendous negative impact on businesses and untold economic hardship on thousands, which will have a domino effect on other businesses.
"During times of war some factories produced airplanes. During this war WE MUST BUILD OFFICES."
Construction everywhere in the city, I'd heard, had ground to a near-standstill. Every laborer, skilled and unskilled, went to ground zero and wouldn't budge.
In the window of a bar named Antarctica, on Hudson just above the tunnel:
"The firehouse on 6th Ave.
just south of Houston lost
11 of New York's bravest.
Stop by to express your
sorrow and gratitude."
So now I know. That's the firehouse that already lost three of New York's bravest on Watts Street. I wonder when I'll ever be able to walk through that block on Sixth Avenue again.
Monday, 22 October: With another detour to Hoboken, today with my friend Stephen, I complete the excursion I started 11 September: J&R reopened today. The wind shifts to the northeast, skies turn gloomy, diagonally across the St. Paul's block the fires burn, and I shop without joy. As we drink coffee, sitting on the same stools where I sat a few weeks ago with Luisa from Chicago watching the Broadway street scene, Stephen tells me people-watching long ago lost its charm for him--unthinkable to me; he longs for tree-watching and water-watching.
Nearing home I brace myself. Hanging from the roof of the seven-storey red brick apartment building next to the firehouse on Sixth Avenue just below Houston <photo update: 22 July 2002>, reaching nearly to the ground, a white banner about a yard wide bears thousands of highlighter signatures, so many one can easily believe that the legend is literal: "Love and prayers from all the people of Alaska."
Sign in the office window above the shrine of flowers and candles, patches from farflung fire departments, messages--many from children, and a thick condolences book in front of the firehouse:

BC Bill McGovern
BC Richard Prunty
LT Vinny Giammona
LT Mike Warchola
FF John Santore
FF Tommy Hannafin
FF Greg Saucedo
FF Paul Keating
FF Louie Arena
FF Andy Brunn
FF Faustino Apostol



Four more fortnights on the perimeter:
11 to 24 September | previous 25 September to 8 October | next 23 October to 5 November | 6 to 19 November ||

Updates and corrections || ... and after || 30 May 2002: Job done? || Winter Garden photo update ||
What next? || Village park continues tradition honoring fallen firefighters || recommended reading :
Eyewitnesses, in their own words; heroes; Afghanistan then and now;
Israel and the Palestinians; intelligence gathering; on watching
what we say; some other politics; periodicals; and archives.

Copyright © 2001-2005 Diane Fisher, except photos copyright © 2001-2005 by the respective photographers.

adpFisher nyc 5 July 2002